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Hidden gems within 4 hours drive of San Francisco?

36 replies

Spellfish · 17/01/2022 11:50

We’ve got the possibility of cheap flights to San Francisco in August - me, DH and DC 11 and 14. Can anyone recommend something other than the stuff that comes up in Google - Yosemite, Alcatraz, Sequoia?

Happy to do those, but any hidden gems would be great. We like hiking, food that isn’t fast, wild swimming and anything mechanical (oldest DC’s favourite thing in NY was the subway museum). Not keen on super long drives of massive crowds. Can anyone recommend places to stay or activities that you’ve done and were great?

Doesn’t need to be luxurious, but not camping and not super crowded if possible. Ideally self catering in one or two of the National Parks, I think, plus a couple of days in the city.

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skellingtonboot · 17/01/2022 13:46

There is a fantastic "automata" museum in SF - it's at Fisherman's Wharf. Great fun.

The Winchester Mystery House is interesting. It's in San Jose.

Santa Cruz is good for a bit of old-fashioned, seaside fairground fun.

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LittleWingSoul · 17/01/2022 13:48

Stinson Beach! Quaint seaside town. We stayed in rooms on top of the only bar in town, but this was close to 20 years ago now.

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chipsandpeas · 17/01/2022 13:48

theres a cable car museum in SF i think its at the edge of chinatown

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chipsandpeas · 17/01/2022 13:49

oh and you can also watch the cable cars turning at fishermans wharf

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JuniorMint · 17/01/2022 13:52

Muir Woods

Sausolito

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1Rule4Them · 17/01/2022 13:53

Bolinas, half the fun is finding it.

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feliznavidad2 · 17/01/2022 14:43

Half moon bay

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LittleWingSoul · 17/01/2022 15:25

@1Rule4Them just realised Bolinas is the place I meant! Stinson Beach is just round the corner, we must have stopped en route. The only thing I have to mark that bit of our tour of California is a bookmark from Stinson Beach Bookstore but I remember the town with no road signs, which was where we stayed. Must have been Bolinas!

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Huy456 · 17/01/2022 15:27

Napa?

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CardRoomGreen · 17/01/2022 15:31

Lake Tahoe is stunning on the SF side - it's where they had the lake house in the godfather. It's a 3-4 hour drive.

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Skala123 · 17/01/2022 15:32

Muir woods was wonderful and not crowded at all

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DorotheaFrazil · 17/01/2022 15:34

We went sea kayaking at Elkhorn Slough (about 1hr45/2hrs south of SF). Saw sea otters and sea lions up close and personal from the kayaks and it was amazing! It's not the open sea so more like an estuary so you can manage it with zero kayaking experience.

The aquarium at Monterey was also one of the absolute highlights of our trip.

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MrsMariaReynolds · 17/01/2022 15:39

Not exactly hidden gems, but the Hearst Castle in San Simeon is interesting. Further down the coastMadonna Inn in San Luis Obispo is amusing. Solvang is an interesting townsupposedly with a Danish flare. 🤷‍♀️

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Aboutcoffee · 17/01/2022 15:40

Came to say Muir woods.
Also Sonoma Valley.
South of SF take route 1 to Monterey.

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SpinningTheSeedsOfLove · 17/01/2022 15:42

Would you be interested in observatories? There are a lot in and around the Bay Area. Just google for them. I would definitely want to visit one of the open-to-the-public astronomy ones.

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Covidclaire · 17/01/2022 15:45

I love Point Reyes and Tomales Bay. Great walks if you’re into that.

And some great self catering cabins on the shores of Tahoe.

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adoreyou · 17/01/2022 15:48

Came on to say Sausalito.
Beautiful place.

Hire bikes in San Fran, cycle through the park, over the bridge into Sausalito.... I think you can get a ferry back... one of our best day trips

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PastMyBestBeforeDate · 17/01/2022 15:51

Tahoe and Monterey were going to be my suggestions.

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popcornsong · 17/01/2022 15:54

Jamestown is a great Western town from gold rush days. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was filmed there as was High Noon. Now full of saloons and antique shops and Western memorabilia. There is a Walk of Fame which reveals just how many movies have been filmed there, an historical railway park where you can ride a Western steam train (the one from Back to the Future III) and you can try gold panning. Also would agree that Monterey (and Carmel) are lovely although the former quite a tourist trap. Do not miss the Madonna Inn.

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PragmaticWench · 17/01/2022 15:56

Julia Pfeiffer state Park has the most stunning waterfall down onto a beach. You just wander from the car park and find yourself on a cliff overlooking the beach. We turned into the car park on a whim and were so glad we did!

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GrumpyPanda · 17/01/2022 16:16

Bodie Historic Park would be great fun with kids - it's a goldmining ghost town. Bit further than you specify but totally doable as a round trip with either Yosemite or Tahoe. www.monocounty.org/places-to-go/bodie/

Or for closer to home and away from the crowds, the Russian River area is lovely and can be combined with a trip to Fort Ross (former Russian colonial outpost and museum).

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Libertynan · 17/01/2022 16:33

Tahoe is fabulous. It's about 4 hours from SF and is worth it.

My family live there so we tend to visit every time. Beautiful scenery. Great restaurants. My favourite lake beach is Roundhill Pines. Get there early to get a parking spot and spend the day there.

Also for a bit of history if you are in the Tahoe area head to Virginia City - you can spend half a day there or longer probably?

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Libertynan · 17/01/2022 16:36

Also Muir Woods is worth a visit. In the same area try and get to Sausalito.

In summer the fog is at its worst - so you may need to drive over Golden Gate Bridge a couple of times to see it :)

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Libertynan · 17/01/2022 16:40

Also.. Sorry

If you do decide to drive over to Tahoe and want to break your journey - check out Murphys. It's a small town midway between the two. It's big on wine and wine tasting. So not much good for the DC. It's a little bit of history though, with some nice old buildings and a small museum. It's very hot there in the summer though.

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nellly · 17/01/2022 16:54

Sausalito, gorgeous little town and you can hire a bike at fisherman's wharf, cycle there over the Golden Gate Bridge and catch the ferry back to where you started Grin

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